“Sesame Street” turns 50 this week! To celebrate, we’re highlighting the show’s most psychedelic, hazy, and tripped-out moments that have delighted tokers and children alike.
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In 1969, society’s counterculture upheaval and a drive to expand cosmic consciousness resulted in the psychedelic convergence of Woodstock and the literally spaced-out giant leap of the moon landing.
Less audacious, but perhaps even more revolutionary, another monumental undertaking from that year channeled the era’s turned-on vibes and anything-is-possible ambitions into an ongoing source of uplift, wisdom, and inspiration for young people and, as such, humanity’s future.
On November 9, 1969, Sesame Street debuted on PBS. Yes, the show has been on the air for exactly half a century now!
Unlike previous children’s TV, Sesame Street showcased a diverse array of kids, adults and, of course, Muppets in funny, heartfelt, and believable situations. It also took place in an urban setting that reflected the communities of most of the show’s audience.
In addition, fueled by the desire to educate and enlighten in the most effective way possible, Sesame Street tapped into 1969’s heady, funky, freewheeling zeitgeist. The show empowered cutting-edge artists, writers, and musicians to create its cartoons, short films, sketches, and sing-alongs. Awash over every element of Sesame Street, as well, were the intrinsic values of love, acceptance, kindness, and inclusion.
All that’s to say, if Sesame Street’s creators weren’t potheads themselves — although just look at Muppet-master Jim Henson; how could he not have been? — the show positively incorporated the most inspired and inspirational aspects of late-60s drug culture.
Gallery — Beloved Childhood Characters Who Were Definitely High AF:
50 years later, Sesame Street remains true to its mission and continues to evolve with changing times — and that includes the show’s initial trippiness. So while the OG hippie groove may have since been overshadowed by other countercultural themes, Sesame Street is still a miracle of learning that seems to arise from clearly lit sources.
Another thing that’s never changed: ganja-rocked grown-ups have been enjoying Sesame Street while high since its first broadcast. In honor of the show’s 50 years on air, we wanted to highlight some of Sesame Street’s most stoner-friendly moments.
“Jazzy Spies” featuring Grace Slick (1969)
Grace Slick, the supreme psychedelic goddess of Jefferson Airplane, frantically spouts between two and ten over bombastic jazz by composer Danny Zeitlin and brain-bulging animation that includes a Jackson Five nod about halfway through the count-up.
“The Tomato” Featuring Music by Peter Schickele (1969)
Every inebriated human has looked too long and too close at a common object only to have it start resembling an alien landscape. “The Tomato” does that work for us, intensely analyzing the titular fruit to a jagged soundtrack by orchestral musical prankster Peter Schickele aka PDQ Bach.
“12 Rocks in the Desert” (1970)
Jim Henson himself directed this sun-scorched, sand-blown, hallucinatory ode to stones by the dozen. Pass the peyote, please.
“Counting Raga” with Ravi Shankar (1971)
While Ravi Shankar rocked his sitar on tour with George Harrison, Sesame Street nodded east toward India by introducing this multi-armed, raga-swaying swami who easily counts to 20 on his fingers — because he’s got four arms.
“Daddy Dear” (1972)
A darling daughter inquires about the letter “d” to her devoted dad and what drops down via delightful animation are druggy d-visions on the order of dreaming dogs, dancing dragons, and ducks with ears who won’t do the dishes.
“Cartoon Face Morph” (1973)
It’s just what the title indicates and it’s impossible for reddening eyes to un-see.
Deemed too scary after airing 11 times, “Cracks” chronicles a girl fantasizing that a torn-up section of her bedroom wall transforms into a camel, who then carries her into a inner-wall world, where a ferocious “Crack Master” rages and roars until he collapses into wooden beams. Had it been made ten years later, the title would have invited obvious guesses as to what its makers must have been smoking.
“Pinball Number Count” featuring The Pointer Sisters (1976)
One of Sesame Street’s most enduringly-beloved animations, “Pinball Number Count” came from the same creative team behind “Jazzy Spies,” and features the Pointer Sisters cutting loose. Slightly mellowed to fit the mid-70s, “PNC” is a jazzy, triptastic lark that plunges us into the pinball world every bumper-flipping stoner has contemplated at the Bally table.
“Wanda’s Fat Knees” (1977)
Wanda won’t move. Her knees, which appear to be sentient beings who can talk and have human faces, comment on her sedentary lifestyle, especially as Wanda’s body increases in size, supposedly from her staying still all the time. To watch this high is to risk forever worrying about the brains behind your kneecaps.
“Geometry of Circles,” with Music by Philip Glass (1979)
Avante-garde composer Philip Glass confabbed with animator Cathryn Aison to create this hypnotic, occasionally jarring cartoon series. Glass’s minimalist music and Aison’s visual precision may well have you contemplating the geography of your bud-bolstered brain into infinity.
“Me Lost Cookie at the Disco” (1979)
Cookie Monster’s relationship to sugary baked treats might reasonably invite the word “addiction.” As such, it’s fun to watch Cookie in this sketch barrel into a decadent, Studio-54-style dance palace and ponder what might happen to the fix-obsessed monster once he gets a taste of some substances considerably more potent that chocolate chips.
“Wet Paint” by How Now Brown and the Moo Wave (1984)
Splattered out at the mid-80s peak of neon-hued MTV alt-pop, “Wet Paint” is a bleeping-and-blorping invitation to robot-dance while inhaling whatever it was that inspired all those trapezoidal haircuts.
“Alphabet Jungle” (1989)
Combining rap, new wave, and boldly graphic cut-out animation, “Alphabet Jungle” shows how adept Sesame Street has always been at keeping up with emerging trends in music and art and, let’s presume, getting high and making cartoons.
“Monsterpiece Theater: Twin Beaks” (1990)
It’s bong-droppingly funny enough that Cookie Monster plays Agent Cookie on an all-Muppet parody of Twin Peaks. This sketch becomes gut-bustingly guffaw-inducing, though, when Cookie comes up against an oddball bird character modeled after director David Lynch who’s called, yes, David Finch.
“Small People” by Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers (1991)
Reggae royalty Ziggy Marley and his band of Melody Makers serenade Muppet favorite Prairie Dawn and momentarily make Sesame Street feel more like “Sensimilla Street.”
“F for Faces” (1992)
In the mid-’90s, computer animation and morphing video technology were still wobbly and wonky enough that stoners could stare at it for hours. “F for Faces” delivers all those goods in 30 seconds.
“That’s the Letter O” by Queen Latifah (1992)
The Queen sends up her 1991 hit “That’s the Way We Flow” with this spirited salute to the 15th letter of the alphabet. We adore those dope hats on the Muppets!
“Beatnik Bat” (1995)
The 1950s beat generation largely copped grass from the jazz scene and turned it into a rite-of-passage for the burgeoning counterculture, and, in time, mainstream college students. “Beatnik Bat” pays tribute to those original poetry-ready, finger-snapping, reefer-passing hepcats by way of a crappily-animated bat. Dig it!
“Wegman Dogs: Baking a Cake” (1998)
Visual artist William Wegman’s photogenic Weimaraner dogs starred in Sesame Street Shorts from 1989 to 2003. Wegman dogs could talk, had human hands, and often did ordinary “people” things like driving cars, going to the store, and, in this case, baking a pineapple upside-down cake. So prepare to require a post-smoking pineapple upside-down cake after viewing this clip.
“Jack Black and Elmo: Disguise” (2008)
Stoner comedy wrecking-ball Jack Black packs his Elmo vocabulary lesson with his signature goofball giddiness. At various points, JB dons a sombrero, oversized sunglasses, and a rainbow clown wig. And even though he’s talking about disguises, there’s no mistaking that marijuana-fueled mirth anywhere.
“GNN with Oscar the Grouch” (2009)
As with the Twin Peaks parody earlier, Sesame Street occasionally makes doob-passing adult viewers do a double-take by sneaking some sly satire over the kiddies’ heads. Here we see green, fuzzy Oscar the Grouch act as an anchor for GNN, the Grouchy News Network. At one point, Oscar takes a call from a viewer who complains GNN isn’t close enough to garbage for his liking. The caller concludes by saying, “From now on, I am watching Pox News. Now there is a trashy news show!”
“Pizza Box Dance” with Elmo and the Yip-Yips (2012)
Hard-smoking Sesame Street viewers have gushed love for the Yip-Yips since their 1971 debut. They’re furry Martians with wildly floppy mouths and bobbling antennae. And if they occasionally wig out Sesame Street’s majority toddler audience, well, stoners are cool with that. Regardless, the Yip-Yips have lasted decades on the show, even having Elmo deliver pizza to them on Mars. How do you think they got their munchies in the first place?
“Ice Cube and Elmo: Astounding” (2014)
More than a few N.W.A. fans once wondered if Ice Cube’s transformation from being a crazy motherfucker straight outta Compton into the star of wholesome family comedies must have been their drugs playing tricks on them. Just check out Cube here chilling with Elmo. The switch was real and, frankly, either way, Cube is always cool to watch while baked.
“You’ve Got a Body So Use It” by Ne-Yo
Out-and-proud cannabis advocate Ne-Yo dispels the notion that stoners are lazy with this peppy ode to movement, where he’s surrounded by creatures who might seem familiar to him from previous smoking sessions.
“Respect” by Common (2019)
Although Common famously stays away from weed, his positive, Muppet-loving ode to the cornerstone value of “Respect” hits like a high in itself. Of course, it hits way harder if you’re also high in the first place.
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